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Moroccan migrants: Reducing security pressures on migrants and refugee camps

Dr Driss El Ghazouani is currently in the Faculty of Education, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco. His recent research includes "A Case Study of sub-Saharan Female Migration to Morocco" and "Morocco's Collaborative Struggle with Migration as a Growing Destination for sub-Saharan Africans."

Moroccan migrants: Reducing security pressures on migrants and refugee camps

1. What are the biggest security issues currently encountered by Sub-Saharan Female Immigration to Morocco ?

It is important to know that in the context of migratory movement, the vulnerability of women and men to human security situations is different due to pre-existing gender inequalities in african societies. Thus, processes such as gender-based violence, harassment, sexual exploitation, crimes against sexual and reproductive rights and femicide generate situations of displacement that particularly affect women. The different stages of the migration process expose illegally migrants women to multiple incidents, dangers and risks that can cause them psychological and physical trauma which increase their vulnerability. In some cases, this trauma has already occurred in their country of origin as a result of poverty, neglect, or physical or sexual abuse that they have suffered. For others, it is experienced along the way.

There are at least 20,000 migrants and immigrants, the vast majority of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa, in a humanitarian emergency. A large part of the sub-Saharan community works in the informal sector, which represents more than 20% of the kingdom's GDP. As car guards, housekeepers without a contract or shopkeepers without social security coverage, they live from day to day.

2. The pandemic may exist for a long time in the next few years. Does this bring new challenges to their safety, or make their safety situation more serious ?

Some reports and articles suggest significant impacts of COVID 19 on migrants. The pandemic has limited sub-Saharan women's access to health services in Morocco, namely those related to the migration experience and living conditions, employment and working conditions, income security, food security, social protection, housing quality and affordability. All these situations are elements that are accentuated in times of COVID 19 crisis. Indeed, the mental health of sub-Saharan women in Morocco and others immigrants is largely affected by obligatory confinement, impediments to movement, lack of work, lack of access to food and isolation, in the same way as other vulnerable people, particularly Moroccans.

In addition, xenophobia, racism and discrimination against sub-Saharan women have increased, as many have pointed out. With regard to the assistance provided to migrants, the various civil society actors have noted the limits of their capacity to intervene adequately in such a critical situation.

3. What are the main immigrants in Morocco ?

Almost three quarters of the immigrants in Morocco are men. It appears that migratory movements from sub-Saharan Africa to Morocco (as a destination or transit country) resemble the first waves of migration of North Africans to Europe. Initially, they were mainly male, with a gradual and strong feminization over the years. The vast majority of sub-Saharan migrants are men, and they are generally young. In fact, immigrants come primarily from neighboring countries that enjoy easy entry, such as : Sénégal, Côte d‘Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinée, Niger, Togo, Bénin, Cameroun, Nigéria, RDC. However, the immigrants who come to Morocco after transiting through several countries represent a small proportion compared to those who come directly.

4. What problems are their women facing ?

During confinement, the increase in violence against women is real. But one wonders what meaning the very notion of "confinement" can have for these precarious women in a period when the links between power and violence are exposed, the loss of the former exacerbating the latter. In this context, the climate of fear incites them to avoid or (self-)exclude public space, except for those who remain subject to the law of the strongest in the closed space of the apartment or the open space of the street. They are spared nothing. The fear of police controls and the lack of knowledge of the functioning of Moroccan institutions put them at the mercy of predators.

5. Can the government or international organization help them?

Morocco has gradually become a receiving country. The migration policy adopted in 2013 has led to the regularization of 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, according to government figures. The number of illegal immigrants, however, is estimated by NGOs to be several thousand.

During the pandemic, the Kingdom of Morocco provided financial assistance to unemployed workers and informal sector workers who were out of work, but no measures were taken for immigrants. Nor do those who have been regularized benefit from the aid distributed by the state, unlike Moroccans. No one in the government has had a word for these people, even though Morocco has invested so much in its migration policy. Elsewhere, several NGOs (e.g., the Federation of Sub-Saharan Associations in Morocco) organize the distribution of food baskets to members of the Senegalese community. Other communities carry out similar actions, but the associations' means are limited.

6. Do you have any advice ?

I can tell you that the need to reduce the security pressure on immigrants and camps, in order to promote the role of associations and the coordination between associative and political actors.

Interviewer: Qiu Jiayi

Interview date: October 18, 2021

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